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  • Writer's pictureYellow Lemon

Pillar & Cluster content framework - what is it and how can it help your content strategy?

We’ve said it before; content is king when it comes to SEO. Product pages, service categories, press releases and blog pages - these are all examples of content commonly found on any website.

But why is it important? Content plays a crucial role in driving organic traffic, building authority, increasing customer acquisition and even has the potential to drive conversions, but only when served to the right person at the right time.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with where to begin, but utilising the Pillar & Cluster - or Hub & Spoke - framework can help build out a successful content strategy by taking into account topic clusters and relevant topics.

But before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how to create the framework, we’ll answer why it is relevant for today’s content marketing efforts.

How search behaviour has changed

The way people are searching on Google has meant that our approach to content marketing has evolved.

A few years ago, the focus of content marketing was on the inclusion of a specific keyword within your content. If your content didn’t include the target keyword, it wouldn’t show up in results. This meant copy was created purely for Google - the tone of voice was very robotic, and keyword stuffing became an issue. But if it meant that users landed on your website, it worked!

Nowadays, searchers are submitting longer and more conversational search queries, including the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ type searches. The introduction of voice search on mobiles and voice-based devices has also meant more questions are being asked, so search engines are having to become more clever with the results they generate so users can find the answers they are looking for, and fast.

What does this mean for you? It means that your content needs to be optimised to be found for broader search terms, rather than just one single keyword. Using keywords which exactly match a person’s search is no longer the most important ranking factor - it is the intent behind that keyword, and whether or not your content solves for this intent.

And this is where the topic cluster approach comes in.

Topic cluster approach to content

In order to rank on SERPs and answer new types of queries that people are submitting, the best solution is to use a topic cluster (Hub & Spoke) framework. It consist of three components:

  • Hub page (pillar content), which represents the primary broad topic being searched for;

  • Spokes (cluster content), which are generally created around more specific long-tail keywords; and

  • Hyperlinks, from the hub to the relevant spoke, and to each other.

Hubspot have created a handy diagram to demonstrate this:

Source: HubSpot

The focus of this framework is identifying broad topics that you wish to be ranked for, then create content (usually blogs) based on keywords related to that topic, that then all link together to help address as many searches as possible about that particular topic.

For example:

  • Hub - ‘flower types’

  • Spokes - ‘how to keep tulips alive for longer’, ‘summer flowers’, ‘what are the most popular flowers’, ‘pet friendly flowers’, ‘top 10 flowers for valentine’s day’

It is important to reference your Spoke keywords within your Hub page content to improve the chances of being found for these searches.

Another benefit of this model is that high performing (aka well optimised) cluster content can elevate rankings for other pages that are linked to the same Hub page. Win win all round!

Confused? We get it. Here’s a quick overview on how to develop a Hub & Spoke framework.

#1 Do your keyword research

Or shall I say, we can. Keyword research is the starting point for any content marketing strategy. Not only will it identify what search terms you are already ranking for and the associated demand, it will help you to understand what your customers are searching for generally within the market. From this, you can clearly see any content opportunities and potential gaps in order to identify your broad topic keywords which will create your Hubs.

#2 Determine your Hubs

Choosing a topic to focus on can be daunting. Which one do I choose? Which one would offer the most value to customers? Which will help drive the most conversions?

For eCommerce websites, a good starting point for developing your Hub topics is to look at the products you sell, but more importantly, the categories which these fall under. For example, you know that your best selling products are trainers, so what content can you write about trainers? These topics are often transactional, likely to target those who are ready to make a purchase.

Once the keyword research has been completed, you can easily identify broad topics and prioritise keywords based on high search volume, as well as any relevant keywords that your competitors are ranking for which you may not be. Any long-tail keywords and those of a lower search volume may then be appropriate to create Spoke content, which may be more informational in nature and more relevant for users at the start of their journey.

From this, you can group the keywords into similar topics and similar intent in order to identify your hub and spoke topics.

You then need to understand your internal linking strategy - how do the hubs link to their relevant spokes and vice versa, as well as to relevant pages on your website? This framework isn’t solely about the content you create, but how your content links together to boost link authority and add value for SEO.

#3 Create your pages

Hub pages are content heavy and not created for the purpose of the user reading from start to finish. They cover all aspects of one topic on a single page, with inclusion of links to spokes which address specific keywords related to that topic, as well as call-to-action buttons to help generate conversions.

#4 Monitor results

Congrats, your content is now live! It’d been 24 hours, so why aren’t you seeing results?

Like with most SEO efforts, results can take time. It’s important to make sure you have your reporting set up prior to launch of your new content strategy, so you can track keywords that you have included, especially in comparison to current performance, and monitor any changes in conversion.

To sum up

By organising content within topic clusters, instead of having unrelated content dotted around your website or stand-along blogs, it is a great way to not only become more relevant across a wider keyword pool, but also will help increase keyword rankings, boost organic traffic and ultimately generate more conversions.

In essence, the value of this framework is about creating relevant content across a number of keyword sets, linked in a cohesive way, in order to build authority.

Still unsure? Here's an example of the power a Hub page had on SEO performance for an ecommerce store.

But, bear in mind that with most SEO campaigns, each approach is individual to your business - some strategies may work better for you than they do for others. Although the framework is a great starting point, a holistic approach to your content strategy is required to create synergy across your marketing efforts.

Ready to start? Get in touch with us and we can have a chat about how the Hub & Spoke model can benefit your business.


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